November 30, 2015

Thirteen times third parties mattered

From our overstocked archives

A short of history of presidential races in which third party candidates exercised significant influence:

1824: With only 15 electoral votes dividing leader Andrew Jackson from John Q. Adams, William Crawford's 41 and Henry Clay's 37 helped throw the issue into the House where Speaker Clay helped tip the election to Adams.

1848: Slavery foes in the Free Soil Party, led by Martin Van Buren, gave the election to Whig Zachary Taylor.

1856: The Republicans, a new anti-slavery party, came in second, bringing to an end the third-place Whigs.

1860: Abraham Lincoln of the new Republican Party won with only 40% of the vote against three other candidates, including two from a Democratic Party split north and south.

1880: Garfield won the electoral vote but he and Winfield Hancock got 48% each, with the Greenbacks -- who favored an expanded money supply -- pulling 3%.

1884: Again, the Democrat (Cleveland) and the Republican (Blaine) came within one point of each other, enough to make the Greenbacks and the Prohibitionists players in the race.

1888: The same one point divided the Democrats(Cleveland) and the Republicans (Harrison) with the Prohibitionists and Union Labor getting 2% and 1% respectively.

1892: With only 3 points dividing Cleveland from Harrison, the Populists' 9 points became critical.

1912: Once again a new third party (Progressives under Teddy Roosevelt) came in second in a race that elected Woodrow Wilson.

1916: Wilson won again but only by 3 points and 23 electoral votes. The Socialists got 3 points.

1948: Harry Truman's 5-point win was complicated by the presence of a States Rights Party under Strom Thurmond and a Progressive Party under Henry Wallace. They each got a little over two points.

1968: With Nixon and Humphrey each getting 43%, George Wallace's American Independent Party with its 14% became a key factor in the race.

1992: Ross Perot got 19% in a race in which the front-runners -- Clinton and Bush -- were divided by only 6 points.

MORAL: In 13 presidential elections, third parties have been a significant factor. Talking heads who tell you otherwise don't know their history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The most fateful was the abolitionist Liberty Party in 1844 throwing the race in NY to Polk They opposed Clay because he owned slaves, wound up 17 years later fighting a civil war behind Clay's protege.